At first, this question merely followed the growing popularity of the western world’s beauty culture. Now however, it has become the crucial key to our survival as a species. Finding answers to the weight-loss puzzle has never been more critical. The vast majority of American adults are overweight; nearly 40% of them are considered clinically obese. Health professionals now know that excess body fat considerably increases one’s risk of serious health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, respiratory problems, major cancers and even fertility problems. As incredible as it seems, obesity is the root cause of more preventable deaths in America than smoking, found by study done in 2017.
Contrarily to popular belief, the diet trends of the late 20th century coincided with an overall weight gain of the entire population. In 1990, adults with obesity made up less than 15% of the American population. By 2010 however, most states were reporting obesity in 25% or more of their populations. Today that number has swelled to 40% of the adult population, and 17% for kids and teens.
Studies recently show a newfound disturbing factor in the weight loss equation. Losing weight is one thing, but keeping the weight off permanently is another battle entirely, one that individuals may have no conscious control over as recent studies are showing.
More than 80% of people with obesity, who lose weight, gain the weight back again. Why is keeping the weight off just as hard as losing it in the first place? It is because when you lose weight, your resting metabolism, which is how much energy your body uses up when at rest, slows down. This phenomenon is probably an instinctive, evolutionary, residual response from the days when food scarcity was common. Studies show however that when previously obese people, gained some of their weigh back again, their resting metabolism didn’t speed up again too. Instead, it remained low, burning far fewer calories per day than it did before the person started losing weight in the first place.
For the 2.2 billion people around the world who are overweight, these findings can be discouraging. They show that it’s indeed biology, not simply lack of willpower, which makes it so hard to maintain a healthy weight. This new information also makes it seem as if the body itself will sabotage any effort to keep weight off in the long term.
A March 2017 study found that people who internalize weight stigma have a harder time maintaining weight loss. That’s why most experts argue that pushing people toward health goals, rather than a number on the scale, can yield better results.
On top of the individual health concerns of obesity, this epidemic is also having a significant amount of social and emotional effects, including discrimination, lower wages, lower quality of life and a likely susceptibility to depression.
The recent upsurge of obesity is having a serious impact on the economy, national productivity, and even national defense. The health care cost of obesity in the US were estimated to be as high as $190 billion in 2005, and is expected to rise, over the coming decades, as the rates of obesity continue to rise. This amount includes money spent on medical care and prescription drugs related to obesity only. But obesity has necessitates many other expenses as well, like the cost of lost days of work, less productivity while at work, higher employer insurance premiums, and lower wages and incomes linked to obesity-related illnesses. Perhaps one of the most surprising consequences of the current obesity epidemic in the US, is its impact on recruitment for the armed services, as current data shows that close to 30 percent of young people in the US are now too heavy to qualify for military service.
Workplaces in the US are having to make adjustments to compensate for the rise in obesity as well, from providing larger and re-enforced desk chairs, designed to support obese employees, to installing sturdier toilettes, to remodelling workspaces to accommodate larger people. These alterations are costly and time consuming, but have become necessary, as the only other alternative would be to exclude obese people from the workforce.
Experts agree that the best cure for obesity is prevention; to never get to that point in the first place. But in our 21st century culture of instant gratification, it is no easy feet to say no to unhealthy options, right from the get go. This is especially since many people, who are obese, have been that way since they were toddlers, when they had no control over what they ate or did.
Research on nutrition, weight gain and health has increased exponentially since entering the 21st century. And although the new information has been widely spread, and is being constantly talked about in many spheres, the rates of obesity in America have continued to grow. Clearly, knowing where the problem comes from, and knowing how to prevent it, is not really doing anything to help put a stop to it. Every year, the rates of obesity increase, and America is already the leading country in rates of obesity, worldwide.
As the world continues to shift to accommodate the growth of obesity, rather than try to fix the root of the problem, are we face to face with the thing that will change our country forever? Are we living in the last few remaining years in which we don’t see the vast and drastic effects of obesity? A century from now, Americans may look back on today, and not recognize their own country.